Imatges de pÓgina


want, and varied miseries of the increasing myriads at the bottom of society ; but in propounding their panaceas, they express opinions so widely different, that their readers cannot but conclude that their patriotic anthors are really at their wit's end. Some, viewing the ill-fed and ill-clad myriads who are clamorously denianding aid, would, at once, set all idle hands to work at cutting bogs, and reclaiming waste

and to recommend their benevolent project the more successfully, they present a most imposing array of figures, to prove beyond a doubt that these sources of employment for our redundant population are ample enough to secure peace and rest, at least, in our day. Here are others who, so far from attaching credit to the bog-cutting scheme, are apprehensive that the surface already under tillage, cannot much longer be maintained at its present extent, but they see in emigration a means of completely draughting off to our colonies the surplus force of the mother country, with supreme advantage to both. Here, on the other hand, however, is a strongly worded protest, all the way from Australia, against our sending out to them idle and ill-conditioned labourers (the very element which we would give all California to get rid of;) and a pressing prayer to send them young persons of both sexes, stout, wil. ling to work, and of irreproachable character, (the very thing we need, and cannot safely want at home.) Some, again, viewing our social state from another point, are struck with the miseries of dirt and foul air, and wax eloquent upon ventilation, and baths for the million. They believe that the grim denizens of our lanes would be signally benefitted by a scrubbing, and that all the ills that flesh is heir to, would rapidly diminish, if a spout of cold spring water kept playing upon them. Shade of Johnson, we think we hear an indignant murmur issuing from thy place of rest, similar to thy recorded protest against cold baths, and heart-hatred of immersion! Such schemes as these may be abundantly useful to meet a sudden emergency, or may occupy a very subordinate place in any comprehensive remedial system: but to offer nothing further, is sad mockery. Xenophon's principle of correcting physical evil, by moral means, is better; and is, indeed, as sound as if the old heathen had purloined a leaf out of the Jews' books.

Some of the works before us, however, discover so much true philosophy and Christian wisdom, that if we saw statesmen seriously recognizing the principles they contain, we would not yet despair of seeing the more formidable of our social evils completely extinguished. The authors are fully persuaded that we are now beginning to reap the fruit of our past negligence, and that it only requires a very slight acquaintance with a past condition of the higher classes of British society to account for the present condition of the lower. By the publication of Pepys' Diary, Lord Hervey's Memoirs, and other works of the kind, we have an opportunity of closely inspecting the life of those whose position rendered their example influential, and their duties peculiarly

The scandalous details of these volumes, on some points, cannot be read in our day, any where out of France, without disgust; but the morbid anatomy of the body social may furnish useful lessons for our future guidance, and may help to solve the difficult problems by which our rulers are so sadly puzzled. It is difficult now to decide, whether the court of Charles II. really deserves the foul pre-eminence which has been generally assigned to it; for, by the disclosures now made public, the Court of George II. would appear to have been equally corrupt. It would seem to be an unfailing law of society, that the example of those in the higher walks gradually influences those below thein, till, in the course of time, it reaches the very lowest grades; so that, if they who are elevated to high stations are of loose principles, they do not suffer alone. The polluting influence descends; and like a mountain stream, as it descends it gathers strength. The example and general conduct of those who occupied the high places of the nation, during the latter period, sufficiently explain, upon the principle just noticed, the wretchedness, crime, and disaffection which, at present, disturb the tranquillity of the empire. In the undesigned picture in which they are now represented, they appear thoroughly selfish ; wholly engrossed with petty and base intrigues, and chiefly busied in the pursuit of ignoble pleasures. They do not seem, for a moment, to have understood that their high station necessarily entailed upon them duties correspondingly high ; and the lower orders were permitted to multiply and outgrow the means of instruction and moral improvement


, without their natural protectors betraying the faintest concern for their welfare. Because the evil which then began to root itself so deeply in the system, was not, at that time, formidable enough to disturb their slumbers, they chose to let it alone; but had the principle obsta prin: cipiis been acted upon, there is no doubt that the evil would have been kept within easily manageable limits. Abandoned to shift for themselves, each new generation sunk to a lower deep of misery and degradation, and the necessity of bestirring ourselves to deliver our fellow-creatures has been forced upon us only when the evil has become so gigantic, that the most sanguine are tempted to despair of a happy issue. To let the masses sink into the Stygian abodes of poverty and crime was easy; but to recall them to the healthful daylight of religion and honest industry, is a task which will put the whole strength of the nation to the proof :

facilis descensus Averno,
Noctes atque dies patet atri janua Ditis :
Sed revocare giadum, superasque evadere ad auras

Hoc opus, hic labor est. It is worse than useless, however, to waste the time in fruitless lamentation which ought to be given up to profitable effort. The work to be done is great enough to discourage the indolent and the timid; the experiment of “Ragged Schools" has disclosed the stubborn and difficult nature of the task which must be accomplished if the salvation of our country is to be achieved ; and has let a ray of light in upon a scene of social and material evil which can only be remedied by the combined strength of the community. But the same experiment proves at least the possibility of making the evil less,—and were it followed out with the moral power which the country is still able to exert, it would prove further the possibility of its complete and utter extinction. The number of our fellow countrymen who cannot read is to be reckoned now, alas, by millions; although the Popish branch of the em

pire be excluded from the reckoning; and as these are massed together in our large towns and manufacturing localities, the mere rude ebullitions of such a vast human force would be terrible, but how much more its regulated and well-governed motion. To impart to this mass the seminal principles of honour and religious faith-to restore the outcast to society-to raise the fallen and shame-stricken to self-reliance and hope—and to kindle the divine spark of love in the darkest breast, is the true way to convert these sources of Britain's weakness, into the truest and most enduring bulwarks of her power. It is an obvious means of accomplishing the work of restoration to get hold of the young and to subject them to the restraint of educational discipline ; and the longer they are withdrawn each day from the corrupting associations of their own homes, the more are the chances of success increased. But it is not the school alone, but the church also that must be brought to bear upon them, if our invasion of these realms of darkness is expected to issue in permanent conquest; and indeed if we weigh the matter in the light of Scripture, we will be led to give the school itself as much of a church character as possible. The influence by which any portion of soeiety can be regenerated, must be sought for in ordinances of divine appointment, and a believer in the truth of Christianity will never be persuaded to substitute in their room the devices of human wisdom, however plausible. It ought therefore to be the study of the church to carry her divine appliances down the steeps of society, and never to consider herself as occupying her right position until in close contact, not only with the young, but with the old; indeed with the whole area of the existing evil. Who can doubt that the life contained in the church, would then spread and multiply itself, and would awake in the breasts of the most miserable class of the community, the high stirrings of love and hope, and virtuous aspirations ?

But were the Church able to subdue the difficulties by which her close contact with the erring is hindered, there are still other barriers to success, which must ever, if not corrected, be antagonistic elements. Some of the writers would have all our charities, without distinction, to be of this character, but more especially our poor laws, which they regard as pernicious, not only in their effects upon the pauper, but in sending up through the numerous class, verging upon poverty, a moral malaria, which saps the props of virtue and honourable self-dependence. One of the writers whose treatise on the subject has attracted considerable attention, records the following resolute and energetic protest :

Poor laws, then, are wasteful laws. They are also unjust laws, if it can be shown that the people whom they relieve in work houses, are less deserving than those whom they deprive of their resources out of it. Now, I know that the work house population, and the subjects of out-door relief form a very motley group of honest and dishonest, deserving and undeserving, ablebodied and infirm, young and old; but I do not scruple to affirm that, taken altogether, it is the very scum of the English people. The best of them have been made paupers by that very abstraction of the labour-fund of which I have been speaking; the worst have been ruined by the temptation to idleness and dissipation, held out by the immoral and anti-christian doctrine, embodied in the law itself." I protest then against the Poor


laws, because they are ineffectual to produce any balance of good : because they are wasteful ; because they give an unjust preference to the worst part of the population over the best ; because they are immoral ; and because they are insulting to the working man."The Evils of England.

He proposes starvation as the proper and appointed portion of him who will not work, and anticipates from a strict and undeviating adlerence to his stern principle, the revival of those hardy virtues, which, in our better days, made us a nation of thrifty and contented citizens. Every species of charity, except discriminating voluntary aid to strug, gling honesty, he regards as the destroyer of the guards and fences of honour, and the nurse of idleness and dissipation. We do not know how he would meet the objection of the thieves who were exhorted the other day to forsake their dishonest courses, and return to habits of industry, self control, and independence; “But how are we to live in the meantime? We must either steal or die, or feed upon one another, prayer is very good, but it wont fill an empty stomach.” We cannot think that the stern author, although vested like Abon Hassan with absolute power to effect his economic and social reforms, would carry out his principle to the rigid extreme which the speaker hints at. Herodotus tells of a people called Padæi who fed upon one another, and throve bravely ; but we fear that it would shock the weak nerves of Britons, were our unemployed to copy the example of that ancient nation, even although they observed further the discretion which characterized the conduct of the Padæi in eating only the more sickly members of the community. To sweep away our Poor laws and charitable Institutions would be a very summary mode of reform, and would certainly be one way of getting rid of the evil which confessedly attaches to them. Every one familiar with the operation of Poor laws and their moral effects, is forced to admit, that no little evil results from them, although they deem their continuance necessary to prevent worse. When the right to eat is recognized as a principle of the constitution, the poor are not slow to go a step further and assert their right to good eating. If put upon, we will not say short, but plain commons, they conceive that they are defrauded of their full right, and rail loudly at the very givers of the charity that sustains them, as if they were harsh and deadly enemies. Were we to put our poor upon the spare diet of the Aritonians, who lived, high as well as low, according to Nicolas Damascenus upon vegetables, no terms would be found strong enough to denounce our cruelty. They must, it seems, be not only fed, but fed well

, not upon the national dish of the land of cakes, but upon the finest of the wheat, not upon thin brewage, but upon savoury viands, and good Bohea, a dish which Pepys says, he sent for as a strange Chinese drink and after thus furnishing their table, we must not so stint their supplies, but they shall have snuff-money, smoke-money, and dram-money. So to economize their rations, as to prevent any part of our charity being snuffed up into the nose, or puffed away in smoke, or lost in the dram-seller's till, would not only be exclaimed against by the meek sufferers themselves, but would offend deadly all the weeping philosophers of the realm. The only part of their poverty which the more stratagetic of our paupers cleave to, is their ragged attire, which they

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arrange with so much artistic skill—so much according to the true æsthetics of dress, that the flappings of innumerable rags, together with their woe-begone air and professional whine, renders their appeal all but irresistible. If the low and dishonest artifice which the poor employ to extract charity, or the love of idleness and filth, or the envious discontent, or the habits of extravagance and improvidence, too truly chargeable upon many, can be proved to be the proper and natural result of the principle of Poor laws, then must all Poor laws whatever be regarded as anti-christian, and their entire abrogation be sought as an essential step to the object which we have at heart, the moral regeneration of the populace. But might not the administration of these laws be so regulated as to make them instrumental in promoting educational efforts, and in aiding the exertions made by clergymen to bring the poorest of the population under the power of religion? At least there can be no doubt that if the spirit which dictated their enactment were faithfully represented by the almoners employed by the community to bestow their charity, the hurtful results anticipated from their continued operation, would not be so alarming as many of our social reformers apprehend. Much of the evil ascribed to the charity itself may perhaps more justly be ascribed to the ungracionsness with which it is put into the hand of the poor recipient; but if our Boards were really to exercise a paternal care over the poor, bringing a moral influence to bear upon them—discriminating as much as possible between the deserving and undeserving-rewarding and encouraging the one, and as far as possible, checking and correcting the other—and using their authority with kind and constant watchfulness to constrain the subjects of relief and their dependants to submit to the educational and ecclesiastical appliances which Christian charity may devise for their elevation, the harsher features of our Poor laws would speedily disappear, Whatever evil is wrapped up in the principle of recognizing a right to relief, we see no prospect that the remedy proposed by the author of the “ Evils of England," _namely, the total abolition of all Poor laws,

But there is one serious bar to the success of all our efforts to christianize the great bulk of the lowest class of the population; and if any one versed in social economics could suggest a plan for its removal, he would be entitled to be regarded as a public benefactor. It is in our manufacturing towns and localities that the population is to be found clustered together in densest crowds, and the public works which attract such masses of human beings present the gravest obstacles to their being made the subjects of efficient Christian discipline. The enormous competition to which mercantile men are subjected leaves them little power to reform the evils of the factory system, but, on the contrary, tempts them to study to obtain the maximum of operative labour at the minimum of expense and time. The consequence has been that the masters of works in many instances consider themselves acquitted of all obligation to their operatives when they pay their wages; and the operatives hold themselves free from aíí further obligation to their masters when their appointed hours of la

will be adopted.

fulfilled. The relation betwixt master and servant is in the

bour are

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